MONDAY, DECEMBER 27 As world citizens reflexively braced for a humongous holiday kaboom, al Qaeda took a pass, leaving the destruction to the ultimate terrorist: Mother Nature, who yesterday delivered a massive earthquake to the bed of the Indian Ocean, triggering a chain of deadly waves that ravaged coastal communities from Indonesia to East Africa and killed at least 150,000 people. Confronted with such epic, blame-resistant tragedy, Last Days is at loss for words. So thank God for Arliss Demaree, the 29-year-old White Center woman who drew our attention back to human-sized tragedy by allegedly shaking a baby to death. According to court papers filed today by King County prosecutors and reported by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Ms. Demaree was babysitting 23-month-old Gracee Gorrebeeck when she asked the little girl to say her name. When Gracee responded with a grunt, Demaree did what any normal person would do: shook the baby hard enough to kill her. Demaree has been charged with second-degree murder, for which the mother-of-two will be arraigned on January 6.

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 28 Today brought the day after the day after the tsunami, complete with evermore upsetting photo and video documentation and spiraling death counts. But the cruelest news was reported by UNICEF, who today revealed that up to half of those killed in the tsunami were children. (Thanks to the earthquake's Sunday arrival, the waves found coastal-dwelling youngsters out of school, with many playing near the water.) Meanwhile, halfway around the world, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced its approval of a pilot study charting the effects of Ecstasy on terminally ill cancer patients. The Associated Press reports that a four-month study will monitor the effects of Ecstasy on 12 Boston-area cancer patients, with researchers hoping to confirm anecdotal evidence that a hit or two of the stress-reducing, empathy-enhancing recreational hallucinogen can greatly enhance the deathbed experience, granting patients "the ability to talk to friends and family about death and other subjects they couldn't broach before." Best of luck to the study's lucky participants, and here's hoping the FDA follows up by funding a study of Ecstasy's effects on newspaper columnists forced to ruminate on the horrible deaths of children.

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 29 Speaking of horrible deaths: Today brought a memorial for the six Fort Lewis soldiers killed in the December 21 suicide bombing of a U.S. mess tent in Mosul, Iraq. Speaking of bombings: Today UNICEF illuminated a new threat to Sri Lanka's tsunami survivors (besides malaria, typhoid, cholera, and dying of grief): landmines dislodged by floodwaters. "Mines have been washed out of known minefields and warning signs on mined areas have been swept away or destroyed," warned a UNICEF spokesperson. Which brings us to the ultimate question, posed explicitly by columnist Roger Kamenetz: "Was God in this disaster?" Kamenetz answers via Talmudic anecdote, recounting the story of the celebrated Rabbi Akiba, whose faultless devotion God rewards with a fatal flaying. When Moses asks God why he allowed such a fate, God replies, "It arose in thought." "To our own human notion of justice, 'it arose in thought' seems cruel and unaccountable," writes Kamenetz. "But the starkness of this tale shows a kind of maturity of vision we sadly lack in today's religious discourse. God in the story offers no real explanation. There is none at the human level that we could understand. We stand before it stunned and uncomprehending." Ah, the comforts of faith.

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 30 In completely non-tsunami-related news: Today a three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals completely ruined Anna Nicole Smith's life, reversing the 2002 ruling that awarded Smith $88.5 million of her late husband-of-14-months' oil fortune, and paving the way for the inevitable video series featuring a glassy-eyed Anna whining her way through a parade of double-penetrations directed by (and perhaps costarring) her fortune-chasing lawyer Howard K. Stern.

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 31 As President Bush took time out of his busy hanging-out-at-the-Crawford-Ranch schedule to announce a tenfold increase in U.S. aid to tsunami victims (bringing the total to a barely not-embarrassing $350 million), hundreds of other, better people gathered to address another tragedy: the death of Jerry Orbach, the 69-year-old American actor/Law & Order mainstay who died of prostate cancer on Tuesday. This morning at Manhattan's Riverside Memorial Chapel, Orbach was mourned and honored by a jury of his peers, including L&O alumni S. Epatha Merkerson, Chris Noth, Benjamin Bratt, Jill Hennessy, and Sam Waterston, who reportedly fought back tears while he eulogized his fallen comrade. Orbach's memorial closed with an acoustic-guitar rendition of "Try to Remember" from The Fantasticks, one of many Broadway shows anchored by Orbach's multifaceted talent. But it was as Law & Order's Detective Lennie Briscoe that Orbach found his greatest role, blending his mastery of naturalism with his genius for understatement. Like the best writers, Orbach understood exactly what to reveal and what to hide, eliciting maximum pathos with minimum manipulation, and earning the adoration of millions. Plus, he was the world's greatest French candlestick in Disney's Beauty and the Beast. RIP, Sir Orbach.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 1 Nothing happened today, unless you count the flash floods in Sri Lanka that forced the evacuation of 2,000 survivors of the tsunami that's killed nearly 29,000 people on the tropical island.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 2 This week of watery hell wraps up with a spooky Associated Press report on the Pacific Northwest's vulnerability to tsunamis. According to seismologists, the danger rests 50 miles off the West Coast in a 680-mile undersea fault known as the Cascadia subduction zone. Scientists say a giant rupture along the fault would cause the sea floor to bounce 20 feet or more, setting off powerful waves that could hit coastal communities in 30 minutes or less. Thanks to their inland locations, Seattle, Vancouver, and other big cities in the region "probably would be relatively protected from deadly flooding," reports the AP. "But other, smaller communities could be devastated."

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